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The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code

Margalit Fox.
Publisher Ecco  
Format hardcover
ISBN 9780062228833
Pages/Publication Date 363/2013
Daedalus Item Code 38867
This item is not available.
Excavating the ruins of a lavish palace on Crete at the turn of the 20th century, Victorian archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed clay tablets inscribed with a mysterious alphabet that included drawings of swords, chariots, and horses' heads, as well as other tiny pictograms. Dubbed Linear B, the script suggested that a refined, literate society had flourished in Greek lands a full millennium before the Classical Age, yet it remained indecipherable for over half a century. Journalist and linguistic scholar Margalit Fox tells an unexpectedly gripping story of the quest to solve one of the most mesmerizing riddles of archaeology, and of three brilliant, obsessed, and ultimately doomed investigators whose combined work would eventually crack the code. In 1952, the script was deciphered seemingly in a single stroke, not by Evans or his colleagues but by Michael Ventris, an impassioned 30-year-old amateur whose obsession with the tablets had begun in childhood—and whose eventual success cost him his architectural career, his ties to his family, and possibly his health. But Fox also reveals a major actor in the drama who has long been missing: Alice Kober, a classicist at Brooklyn College. Though largely forgotten today, she came within a hair's breadth of deciphering Linear B before her own untimely death in 1950, providing the foundation for Ventris.

"Fox is a talented storyteller, and she creates an atmosphere of almost nail-biting suspense.... This one deserves shelf space along such classics of the genre as Simon Singh's The Code Book."—Booklist (starred review)

"Fox recreates the emergence of one of history's most vexing puzzles—and then puts readers alongside the remarkable figures who, brilliantly, obsessively, and even tragically, devoted their lives to solving it. Forget The Da Vinci Code. This is the real thing."—Toby Lester

"A fascinating yarn centered around an unlikely heroine.... Fox's deft explanations of the script-solving process allow readers to share in the mental detective work of cracking the lost language."—Publishers Weekly

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